By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — Everything closed, “or almost everything, which isn’t the same thing but is” – a singer-composer once said, this is what happened over the first three days of January in the Cuban capital. In spite of the specific announcement, the Carlos III shopping center mocked itself, its customers and closed at sunset on the 1st, when the city seemed to be completely abandoned.
The second dawn of the New Year was marked by another “patriotic” (as they say here) military march, a never-ending tribute to the Comandante, founder of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, whose heirs don’t want to lose his presence.
More of the same thing, only some stores opened, especially bodega stores which sold the meager rationed food items in advance last month and are only selling cigarettes, not even cigars, rum, our national pride.
The ETECSA telecommunications monopoly didn’t open its telephone centers either that day, in spite of it being the time of month when people have to pay for the services the company provides. Some private salespeople, agro-markets and bar- cafes escaped the overruling mentality at state-owned institutions, and were decent enough to offer their products to annoyed customers.
The third day was a bank holiday for Havana’s residents, another day without working in a country whose economy woke up on the negative side of the bed while the 58th anniversary of the political adventure whose end cannot be seen on the horizon, was being celebrated at Revolution Square.
To top it all off, walking down Belascoain Road, I saw a long line of state city buses, completely empty, return to their stations after the march called for by the Communist Party ended. In the line to pay 1.10 CUC, the equivalent to USD, for a packet of 500g of split-peas disguised as coffee people were saying: “There’s only one till open, just think, there’s no public transport today, so those who haven’t come to work are excused.”
I reached the market complex, the Bim Bom ice cream store on Infanta and Manglar Streets, where some alleged customers were looking for some ice cream, complaining about the unexpected closure. Paradox, there are people who are justifying this situation: “They – employees at these stores – also have families and the right to enjoy themselves, if you didn’t buy what you needed beforehand and kept it in stock for these days, then go somewhere else!”
These people’s brains have been shrunk, they are surely being fed with “the glory of years long past”, a phrase which one singer-composer may regret, who was a friend of the aforementioned in this article for many years.
The worst thing is that last year began with predictions of about 2% economic growth, which finally resulted in a negative number. A similar prediction was made again a few days ago; it was more to do with the weather than the economy, at least with regard to the first three days of the year which Cubans didn’t work.
Last minute update: On the morning of January 3rd, the TV told us about a new victory caravan, reenacting the one in 1959, beginning in Santiago de Cuba and reaching Bayamo on the day this endlessly sad article was written.